(Considering the fact that this question is specifically about the UK academic system,) this webpage says

Applicants are expected to spend an average of at least 50% of full time working on the project and the employment costs for this effort would be covered in full.

Assume that a lecturer is supposed to be paid amount X by their university to be a full time employee. Now assume that individual gets a government-supported (does it matter?) grant in that they claimed that they spend 30% of their full working time. If the grant's period is a year, is it correct that the university will not pay 0.3X of that salary since it is supposed to be compensated by the grant?


3 Answers 3


The grant funding goes to the university, not to the individual PI. If the grant budget includes 30% of the PIs time, the university will then use that money to cover 30% of the PIs salary, while paying the other 70% from other sources.

There is no direct impact on the PI. They still get exactly the same paycheck as before. (The existence of this funding would be an argument towards getting promoted though.)

  • 9
    There is some "direct impact" on the PI, at least in theory: they can use the fact that 30% of their salary is paid from the grant to argue for a corresponding reduction in the amount of teaching and administrative work allocated to them.
    – avid
    Oct 30, 2022 at 10:32
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    @avid I'd count that as indirect. It will vary between institutions, but I really wouldn't count on that approach working out. I'd expect the reply to be that this is just a shift from university-funded research time to UKRI-funded research time, and that teaching and admin remain constant.
    – Arno
    Oct 30, 2022 at 11:32
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    Don't know specifically about the UK, but there usually are some semi-shady ways how a PI can use grants to boost their actual salary (at least a little). But this answer describes what happens in by far most cases.
    – xLeitix
    Oct 30, 2022 at 11:32
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    @Buffy I'm only addressing having PI-time funded by a grant, not other benefits of having a grant in the UK.
    – Arno
    Oct 30, 2022 at 11:34
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    @DanielHatton Hahahahahahaha. No senior-ish person at my university has ever promised any such thing for any of the 5 grants that have funded parts of my salary. As recently as last year the BBSRC should have been paying for 40% of my salary. But noone promised, nor did I get, anything like that much time for the research. Oct 30, 2022 at 22:10

One relevant thing here might be that while other answer are correct - the funder reimburses your employer for the fraction of your time its taking off them - some employers will include a bonus payment for the PI. I've got the Wellcome Trust specifically in mind here, but there may be others. On things like the old Henry Dale fellowships (and I believe the new career development fellowsihps) they pay for 100% of your time (and expect you to spend 80% on the research), but they pay for you to be paid at a higher rate than would be standard for a new PI.


I think one important thing to add to Arno's answer is that while there is no direct impact on the PIs salary, there (at least in theory) should be one on their workload. A typical research-oriented Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in the UK is supposed to spend 40% of their time on research, 40% on teaching-related activities, and 20% on admin. In a way, teaching-and-admin duties an academic performs "pay" for their allotted research time.

If that academic then gets a research grant on which they are costed to work for 40% FTE (which covers 40% of their salary), this does not mean they should spend all their research time on this project. In fact, these 40% should be taken out of their overall workload, and ideally out of their teaching+admin workload. This is sometimes referred to as buying out your teaching time.

So in principle, the academic from the above paragraph would go from 40(R)-40(T)-20(A) workload to 100(R) workload (ideally), or at least to a 64(R)+24(T)+12(A) (in case 40% of their combined R-T-A workload gets assigned to research on this new project). The grant money, which goes to the institution, should be used to cover the reduction in the PIs teaching workload (e.g. to hire somebody on a fixed-term teaching-only position).

As mentioned in the previous answers, successfully securing external funding is one of the conditions for promotions as well.

  • This is discipline and university specific. At places i have worked, you would only get buyout if you secured more than 40% of your time on external grants, and this would not come from hiring fixed term teaching staff (which we try not to do), but by the slack being taken up by those with less than 40% externally funded research time. Nov 1, 2022 at 19:54

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